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Under a Watchful Electronic Eye
August 29, 2014   
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A pair of pajamas that will sound the alarm when your blood sugar level drops or when your heart begins to beat erratically.A computer that will detect when someone is behaving suspiciously in a crowd.

These are some of the ideas that are being pursued by scientists, led by Prof. Ryszard Tadeusiewicz, at the Department of Automatics and Bioengineering of the AGH University of Science and Technology in the southern city of Cracow.

The department began working on computer image analysis methods almost half a century ago. It was the first research unit in Poland to set up a team of researchers and designers focusing on creating computer systems to help disabled and sick people and people who live alone. The software can accurately analyze and interpret images seen by a camera. It not only registers selected images and video sequences, but also intelligently interprets the results of these observations. This helps physicians diagnose patients, decide on what kind of treatment is needed and predict its results.

“Bioengineering equips doctors with the tools they need to fight disease, suffering and death,” says Tadeusiewicz. “We are now living longer, and there are more elderly and people who live alone, many of them disabled. The AGH University of Science and Technology wants to improve the quality of life for these people by finding out how well they are coping. Therefore, we have expanded our research to include medical technology to be able to accurately analyze and assess their physical and mental activity.”

The system will be able to detect when such activity is abnormal and when medical staff need to be alerted. An alarm can be generated automatically by devices monitoring an elderly or disabled person.

The university’s researchers are also working to develop what they call smart clothing technology, using special sensors in clothing. A pair of pajamas, for example, can be fitted with sensors and measuring devices.

The researchers have created a special computer system focusing on individuals whose state of health needs to be monitored. Such a system is useful for an elderly man with dementia, for example, who knows how to put on his pajamas, but may have problems attaching electrodes all around his body to enable his doctor to remotely check his heart rhythm. The sensors will also alert a diabetic when his or her blood sugar level drops below normal.

The AGH University of Science and Technology researchers are also focusing on building special controllable devices to help people with physical disabilities affecting their limbs. These simple, low-cost devices will help disabled people communicate with the world via a computer.

Moreover, the university’s researchers are working on a special computer program to predict the intentions of people in public places as part of a monitoring system. Visible and invisible cameras keep track of what people are doing in such places. The image on the screen is monitored by security staff in a bank, at an airport, railway station and so on. However, human operators are unable to see everything and detect all risks at the right time and counteract them. The program being developed at the AGH University of Science and Technology is expected to help predict the intentions of individuals by recording unnatural behavior or suspicious movements. A computer will analyze the image and may suggest that a specific person needs to be looked at more closely.
Teresa Bętkowska
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